Minister of the Interior Mari Rantanen (PS) reacted at a news conference concerning restrictions to cross-border traffic between Finland and Russia in Helsinki on 11 January 2024. Rantanen on Monday signalled that the government is likely to extend the border closure given the lack of meaningful change at the border. (Roni Rekomaa – Lehtikuva)

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MINISTER of the Interior Mari Rantanen (PS) does not believe re-opening eastern border-crossing points is currently feasible given the lack of change in the situation on the border between Finland and Russia.

“A considerable number of people are waiting on the other side of the border. Russia doesn’t seem to have changed its actions,” she commented on YLE A-studio on Monday.

“In December, we saw what [the re-opening] led to.”

Finland has kept its entire eastern border closed for almost two months, with the latest decision extending the closure until Sunday, 11 February 2024.

The Finnish government is expected to decide on whether to extend the closure further and to what extent by the end of this week. Rantanen on Monday declined to speculate on the duration of the next closure, reminding that the government has taken the course of action primarily to guarantee national security and the safety of citizens.

“We won’t give in to this kind of pressure. The border closure will continue for as long as necessary. We’d prefer that an end to this kind of activity was in sight, but so far that’s not the case.”

Marko Saareks, a deputy head of division at the Finnish Border Guard, revealed on YLE Aamu on Monday that hundreds if not thousands of third-country citizens remain at the eastern side of the border, in Russia.

“You can’t draw the conclusion that the situation is over,” he remarked.

He added, however, that border officials have not detected any kind of activity near the border-crossing points and that the border closure has not had a notable impact on the land border between the points. In January, border officials recorded three cases involving illegal crossings, with 33 people subsequently taken into custody in Finland. All of them have since applied for asylum in the country.

Prime Minister Petteri Orpo (NCP) similarly stated to the public broadcasting company over the weekend that the re-opening the border-crossing points seems impossible in light of current information.

Anna Kontula (LA), a member of the Parliament’s Constitutional Law Committee, on Monday expressed her frustration with the fact that the government has made its decisions on the closures based partly on classified information.

“I consider it problematic that such a significant societal decision is made based on material that can’t be subjected to general scrutiny and […] genuine public debate,” she said to YLE.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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